Sunday, April 24, 2005

Worst Mayor? Time Will Tell...

Time Magazine has named San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy one of the worst mayors in the nation. I wish to take exception with their description of our beloved Mayor. Oh, I certainly agree that Mayor Murphy could be one of the worst in the nation, but nevertheless, Time has poorly stated a few facts about the Mayor and his opponent in the last election.

The crisis has so discredited him, he almost lost his job last November to Donna Frye, a last-minute write-in candidate who runs a surf shop. She actually won more votes, but some 5,500 people who wrote in her name failed to shade in an oval box, and the courts ruled the ballots invalid.

There are some pretty serious problems with this portrayal of Mayor Murphy's competition. As someone who voted for Donna "Surfer Girl" Frye, they're pretty obvious to me. First, Donna Frye is indeed a co-owner of a surf shop, but her more relevant distinction is that she is a current City Councilmember for the 6th District of San Diego. So, let's dispel the idea that San Diego voters were going to throw out their Mayor for a surfer girl, even if she is the wife of surf legend Skip Frye. Second, the 2004 mayoral election was an excruciatingly close three-way election between Murphy, Frye, and San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts (R). It is not exactly accurate to say Donna Frye actually won more votes.

Remember when we saw the interviews of the poor old Jewish ladies in Florida, after the 2000 elections, talking about how hard it was to punch out the little chads? Well, Frye being a write-in candidate, we were required to write her name on the line and fill in the corresponding bubble for that write-in line. Voters for Dick Murphy and Ron Roberts also had to fill in the corresponding bubble for their names. Votes for the Presidential race, and all other races, also required the bubble for the corresponding candidate to be filled-in. This was not a new or complex concept. The reason we were using the manual bubble ballots was the decertification of the Diebold E-Voting Systems after widespread failures during the 2004 Primary Elections. The reason we had a write-in candidate on the General Election ballot was a controversy over conflicting candidate qualification rules between the city charter and the municipal code. Yes, the joys of democracy in California never cease.

In addition to write-in names like "dudette", the registrar of voters did not count over 5,000 attempts where Donna Frye's name was written on the line, but the bubble was not filled in properly. Those may amount to votes for journalists at Time magazine, but I'm far less willing to exchange the technical requirements of a vote for subjective divining of voter intentions, even if it means the narrow defeat of a candidate I supported.

It should be noted that each of the five cities which, according to Time magazine, have the best mayors in the nation also have a strong mayor form of government. The City of San Diego has had a weak mayor-city manager form of government until the city voters passed Proposition F in 2004, changing San Diego to a strong mayor government structure. That certainly doesn't absolve Mayor Murphy of failures to address pollution (we're talking sewage, not trash) along our beaches and the purely corrupt pension program negotiated by Mr. Murphy and the Council. This would usually prompt me to launch into a vitriolic tirade re-labeling baby boomers as "Generation Pension" and explaining why the growing burden of generous government pensions are going to thrust most government services into privatization; but I'll exercise some restraint this time around.

There is a currently an effort underway to recall the Mayor, but it is not very well publicized and there doesn't seem to be much public support for it. Personally, I think a politically weak Dick Murphy in a strong mayor form of government could be very useful to the most vocal voting groups in San Diego. However, this touches upon another of my alarmist rants about corporatism being the gateway to fascism, so I'm conflicted on even the positive side to Mayor Dick Murphy. I thought the Recall of Governor Gray Davis was one of the most democratic elections in which I have ever voted, but I'm still not ready to support a recall effort against Mayor Dick Murphy, though he be one of the worst in the nation.

Gunning Fog Index ---- 15.52
Flesch Reading Ease -- 51.96
Flesch-Kincaid Grade - 12.00

- provided by Juicy Studios' Readability Test (hat tip: Overlawyered)

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